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Among the reasons the Cincinnati Bengals have been so good the past couple of years, making the trip to consecutive AFC Championship Games, is because they’ve boasted a 4,000-yard passer in Joe Burrow, a couple of 1,000-yard receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins and a 1,000-yard rusher in Joe Mixon.
Except Mixon didn’t hold up his end last season.
His production dropped to 814 rushing yards and only a 3.9-yard per carry. And that came at exactly the wrong time.
The exact wrong time is when the biggest salary numbers from a four-year, $48 million contract extension started kicking in with Mixon’s base salary jumping to $8 million last season, $9.4 million in 2023 and $9.68 in 2024.
Bengals Have Discussed Joe Mixon Future
That makes the temptation to move on from Mixon “an on-going conversation,” per a team source, because it would include a savings of up to $20 million over the next two years.
And that conversation now includes an off-field issue because Mixon, a club asset the past few seasons on and off the field, now has legal issues he must handle.
So, yes, the Bengals have a decision looming on Mixon’s status for 2023.
The circumstances are seemingly conspiring against the running back all at the same time.
About the legal issue:
Mixon has been charged with aggravated menacing, according to a local report over accusations he pointed a gun at a woman during a road rage incident in January. Cincinnati police originally charged Mixon with the incident in February, dropped the charge, then refiled after an investigation.
The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor so it is serious, but it is not a felony. It cannot be dismissed by the running back as if it were an off-balance defensive back. It is punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.
Mixon is scheduled to appear in court on April 19.
And depending on what happens either at trial or through pre-trial negotiations, the NFL will have its moment. The NFL may investigate to determine whether this incident breaks the league’s personal conduct policy.
Bengals Seem Lukewarm On Zeke Elliott
It should be noted the Bengals haven’t stepped forward publicly to announce a running back need. Coach Zac Taylor seemed to brush off interest in Ezekiel Elliott. The former Ohio State star was released by the Dallas Cowboys with obvious regional ties.
And as far as the draft is concerned, the Bengals have been doing running back homework. But they’re not exactly tipping their hand. They scheduled only one known top 30 visit with a running back — that with Arizona State’s Xazavian Holladay.
This much is clear:
The Bengals already were weakened by the loss of Samaje Perine earlier during free agency. Perine signed a two-year deal worth $7.5 million with the Denver Broncos.
And he told the Denver Gazette on Tuesday the Bengals offered him similar money before he decided to move on.
Joe Mixon Still ‘Great’ Says Samaje Perine
Perine also told the Gazette he believes Mixon is still a “great” back but doesn’t know what the club will do with him.
Obviously, losing Perine isn’t going to help the Bengals move on from Mixon. The move actually makes Mixon more valuable.
But no one is stating categorically what ultimately happens. There’s the legal side that must play out, then the draft, then the back end of the free agency that Mixon must survive.
“It’s a big jigsaw puzzle and you put one piece in and maybe that changes the way you see another piece,” Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn told the Bengals website recently. “So we just have to wait and see how things play out a little bit.”